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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Mountain View receiver Aiden Nicholson in full stride of his ‘get-back’ season after injury

Leadership one aspect of game senior is working on

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 15, 2023, 6:00am
2 Photos
Mountain View senior Aiden Nicholson (11) has 279 receiving yards on 12 catches and four touchdowns through the first two games of the 2023 season.
Mountain View senior Aiden Nicholson (11) has 279 receiving yards on 12 catches and four touchdowns through the first two games of the 2023 season. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Aiden Nicholson is a two-sport athlete for Mountain View High School, but admits watching sports on television when not playing football or basketball for the Thunder isn’t his vibe.

“I kind of get bored watching sports,” Nicholson said, “because it makes me want to go play it. So I’d rather go play it rather than watch it.”

Yet what he does watch is plenty of highlights of the NFL’s elite receivers, including Las Vegas Raiders’ Davante Adams, who Nicholson likes to compare himself to when it comes to route running. That’s in addition to watching 10 hours per week of opposing teams’ film during the high school football season.

Friday, Mountain View (1-1) and Union (0-2) play in their annual in-district rivalry game at 7:30 p.m. — the second game of a football doubleheader at McKenzie Stadium.

This week marks a special one for Nicholson, the Thunder’s four-year varsity player who is the team’s top receiver through two games. It marks one year since the senior’s school-record performance of 254 receiving yards and five touchdowns in Mountain View’s victory over Union in 2022.

Yet this week also brings back another memory that’s never faded: a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the left knee the following week that prematurely ended his junior season last Sept. 23 in a road loss to Hanford.

“This is my get-back season,” Nicholson said.

He’s been back to 100 percent healthy for months. That’s because his ACL injury was a partial tear and didn’t require surgery. That was good news for Nicholson, who says he’s now a new-look player than this time a season ago when he was on his way to a breakout junior campaign that prematurely ended after four games.

What he gained by sitting out the remainder of the 2022 football season and missing the basketball season because of rehabilitation is more than he expected.

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“I’ve taken a step back,” Nicholson said, noting the positives that came with it. “I used to look at the future over and over again, but now, I’m in the present every week.”

And present, in a big way. Nicholson is a two-way starter at receiver and free safety on a new-look Thunder team under first-year head coach Aaron Hart. Plus, there’s something new with Nicholson: he’s one of a dozen or so players part of Hart’s leadership club. The teen emphasized the importance of leadership in an essay he wrote expressing his interest to join.

“I’ve always wanted to be a leader, and I know kids (in the program) look up to me,” Nicholson said.

In fact, Nicholson’s only connection to Mountain View is sports. He’s been homeschooled since kindergarten and currently takes one class at Mountain View — fourth-period weight-training. But his connections with his teammates go back years, which is why he calls the senior class some of his best friends.

That includes quarterback Cash Cook, a former safety now the Thunder’s quarterback. Having a receiver like Nicholson, a one-time tight end, makes Cook’s job easier because of the reliability down field, the quarterback said.

“He’s got everything you want in a receiver,” Cook said of Nicholson. “He’s good about finding open space and knowing when to cut his route off.

“Being able to find the open space makes it 10 times easier for me because he gives you somebody to throw to.”

Nicholson already has 279 receiving yards on 12 catches and four touchdowns. He’s committed to graduating high school in December and wants to enroll in college early to get a jump start on spring practices. Nicholson is uncommitted, but received offers this spring from Air Force, Arizona State and Louisville.

Whether it’s on offense, defense, leadership or injury recovery, Nicholson knows he’s not the same player as 2022.

“I’m a different Aiden Nicholson,” he said.